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GREATEST / pigbaby

The anonymous Irish musician talks the freedom of dressing up, living out of a suitcase and weirdo pride at Manifesto 2022.

INTERVIEWER: Cyrus Goberville INTRO: Brock Cardiner PHOTOGRAPHER: Thibaut Grevet LOCATION: Espace Niemeyer

An anonymous Irish artist working across painting, photography, collage and film launched pigbaby as a musical project during the first 2020 lockdown. Developing a hallucinogenic world in the form of introspective bedroom folk, pigbaby released Palindromes in May 2022, a six-track EP written on a small keyboard during a period of intense isolation. The 25-minute record evokes a sense of digital chaos, longing and loneliness, drawing together a galaxy of references, from YouTube fight videos and the online simulator Second Life to Sinead O'Connor in the Irish film The Butcher Boy.

At Manifesto, a four-day festival presented by GOAT and Kaleidoscope Magazine at Espace Niemeyer during Paris Fashion Week SS23, the artist performed his first-ever live show as pigbaby. Ahead of his debut performance, the artist sits down with Cyrus Goberville, Head of Cultural Programs at the Pinault Collection’s Bourse du Commerce museum, to talk the freedom of dressing up, living out of a suitcase and weirdo pride.

Could you introduce yourself?

I'm pigbaby. I'm a musician and I dress like a pig.

Why do you dress as a pig?

I think music nowadays is quite boring; the image people put out. And I'm inspired by a lot of people who wore costumes, like Blowfly. He was an old soul singer and he dressed like a fly for all his shows.

Was a costume necessary to make your music happen?

Yeah, because with a costume, you can build a whole world around it through videos and design. If it was just me putting my face on, it would be boring. I like the mystery, the mystique. I like playing around and being tongue-in-cheek. But also, the music is quite sad, so having a bit of humor is a nice balance. I always hated artists like James Blake and Thom Yorke; they're just, like, these miserable men. I always liked Zombie and Aphex Twin, and people with a strong visual identity.

The KLF.

Exactly. One of my biggest influences is Chill Out. The fact that some of their work feels like performance art is very interesting. But the most important thing is to make really nice songs that are not too challenging.

There is a Daniel Johnston vibe, also.

Daniel was also one of my biggest influences. I really like outsider art and outsider music, all the weirdos […] I could always relate to people like that because I've struggled with mental health, and I’m proud of being a weirdo.

For you, is music a good way to be a weirdo?

Yeah, total expression. With my other art—painting, photography, collage, film—I've never been able to express myself as much.

Will pigbaby always be dressed as a pig?

Yeah, I think so.

Is this about being shy?

No. I'm letting everyone know my deepest problems, so it’s definitely not about being shy. The mask, designed by Isabelle Eyres, allows me to speak very candidly about my life without feeling embarrassed that someone I know is going to laugh at it or think it’s stupid. I suppose the secret character gives me the confidence to speak about depression or suicidal thoughts or breakups.

Where are you from?

Dublin, but I've been living out of a suitcase for three years. Ireland was a big influence on me. I'm very interested in Irish folklore and traditional Irish music. For the album, I spent a month in a cottage in the countryside, two hours' walk from the local shop. I worked with a cellist and a guitarist and someone who was local to the area.

You know a lot about music. How did this happen?

I grew up in this record shop, All City Records, in Dublin. From the time I was 13, I began going there every day and did that for the next six or seven years, so I was always buying records. Then, I DJ'd for 10 years and did a lot of radio shows like NTS. But only a year ago I started trying to make music myself.

You just woke up one day and decided to start making music.

Yeah. It was during the lockdown, and I had a big breakup and was very bored with the other art I was doing. With a tiny keyboard, I recorded everything myself.

What else influenced your musical journey?

I used to live in Manchester and would go to this place called Soup Kitchen, where I first heard ambient music. I texted this guy, Alexander Taber, who now works for Warp and I said, “What is this music called where there are no beats?" And he was like, “Oh, that's ambient or ambient techno.” And from that I found Chill Out and people like DJ Sprinkles, Psychic TV and Oneohtrix Point Never.

Tell me about your performance for Manifesto.

It’s my first-ever live show. The record only came out a month ago. I'm doing a 45-minute performance with my friend, Lecxi. He’s going to be playing the tracks, and I'll be singing over them. I'm going to play a lot of new stuff from the album. 

What is your dream pigbaby show?

Somewhere amazing like the Barbican, with a full set design featuring trees and little animals and me with a full band. I love working with other musicians. I like to work with violinists and people who play traditional Indian instruments. I love doing as much as I can myself and then working with other people.

Is pigbaby making you happy?

Yes. It's the most fun I've ever had making anything. It means so much to me. The fact that people like it, too, is mind blowing to me. I've never felt the same feeling from doing a book or a film or an art show. I've never felt that same pride.